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Ann Surg. 1988 Jan;207(1):39-47.

The complications of pancreatectomy.

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Surgical Clinic, Mannheim, University of Heidelberg, West Germany.


This paper analyses the early postoperative complications after 285 pancreaticoduodenectomies performed during the past 15 years in the Surgical University Clinic, Mannheim. There were 235 partial (Whipple) and 52 total pancreatectomies performed for pancreatic and periampullary tumors (181 patients) and complicated chronic pancreatitis (104 patients). A total of 92 complications requiring relaparotomy in 42 patients ended fatally in nine patients. The overall operative and hospital mortality rate was 3.1%. The most frequent and most dangerous were complications at or around the pancreaticojejunal anastomosis, which occurred 25 times with five deaths. Postoperative hemorrhage was seen in 16 patients; endoscopic treatment in four patients and operation in 12 patients was successful in stopping the bleeding in all but one patient. Eight biliary fistulae either ceased spontaneously (3 patients) or after operative reintervention (5 patients) without any mortality. Control of these complications depends on four lines of approach: (1) before operation: optimal preparation of the jaundiced patient including endoscopic transpapillary decompression of the common duct; (2) during operation: a meticulous and standardized technique is mandatory; (3) after operation: continuous observation in the surgical intensive care unit is essential for the timely detection of possible complications; and (4) early reintervention can salvage the great majority of these patients with deleterious complications.

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